Baking for Charity Part II

Baking for Charity Part II

Welcome back! I know you must be dying to know how the value of land, the red headed mzungu, a Cottage Law, and a venture into crazy cookies all ties together, right? Many times I feel like we are putting together a 2500 piece puzzle. When you first start a puzzle the pieces look confusing. You have no idea of how it will come together. They just look like random shapes. Then you start connecting them and slowly but surely they begin to form a picture. When I started baking for charity, it felt a little like a puzzle.

Baking for charity is not all sunshine and roses. It has its ups, it’s downs and a few twists with turns.  There are so many valuable lessons that we have learned along the way. Let’s get back to where we left off from Baking for Charity Part 1.

In July of 2010, Dann and Permina traveled through Southern Sudan scouting different areas of the country that might be suitable for a farm.  Southern Sudan is made of ten states. While visiting the various areas and territories, they met with many  leaders.

baking for charity

Be jealous ladies. That is my mzungu in the straw hat! Now his version of the story is that his wife took his Detroit Lions hat out of his suitcase when she was hiding surprises in his luggage, so he was stuck wearing the big straw hat. {oopsie!}

baking for charity

This picture will be forever ingrained in my mind. This is at the airport in Jonglei. Can you spot the scale for the luggage? They were getting ready to leave and clouds were beginning to form in the sky. Rain was headed that way. Since the air strip is all dirt, rain is very bad for flying.  Thankfully, the plane boarded and they were on their way back to Juba. It was days later that we found out that if the plane had not taken off, Permina and Dann would have been stuck their for months. Torrential rains flooded the entire area for about six months.

Micah 6 8 Sudan

After all the areas they visited, Dann felt that the area that they had looked around near Torit, South Sudan is where the farm would eventually be located. After three and half weeks Permina said goodbye to his homeland once again and they began the journey home to America in August 2010.

Baking for Charity

Now what? The boys were home. Permina was back in school finishing up his last credits in college. It was going to be awhile before they would go back to the Sudan. One of the big decisions that we were awaiting was the outcome to the Sudanese declaration to separate from the North. In January of 2011, a referendum took place in Southern Sudan that would make it possible for the South to declare its independence from the North. The vote was successful and South Sudan was officially it’s own nation. Development opportunities began to open up in the South bringing companies from China and France. Yet, the problem still remained. They were not hiring Sudanese workers. They would either bring in workers from Uganda and Kenya or from their countries. As these companies came into South Sudan land costs were beginning to rise.  In the beginning the land we were looking at was around thirty thousand dollars in 2010, now the land cost was two hundred thousand dollars. What were we going to do? We can’t afford that? So we hit our knees and began to pray.

In the mean time all our family and friends were having me bake for their events. Only I hit a slight snag. Come to find out you can not sell food to your friends. I understood that I couldn’t sell to the public. I was confused. What? Really? I was so surprised. I live in America. If a friend wants me to make a cake, I can not make it for them in exchange for money?

What was I going to do? Bake sales had become a viable way to raise funds for our charity. I began the process of trying to make the necessary changes in our home so that it would pass an inspection to be approved as a home bakery but there is this thing called a grease trap. It is this really obnoxious contraption for commercial kitchens. Some kitchens need them and they are necessary but some do not.  Why would I need a crazy grease contraption for baking brownies and cookies? On to plan number two, we began looking for space that I could rent in a certified kitchen. Unfortunately, there is only one option in the Phoenix area and it was over 40 minutes from my house.

Sadness started to creep in. It was such a bummer. Then I stumbled across an article about Cottage Food Laws being enacted in different parts of the country. I was so excited. Arizona was on the list. I wrote our legislature. I wrote about our story.  One of the biggest complaints about the Cottage Law in Arizona was local business. Many business owners stated that home bakers would under charge for their products because they would not take into account proper overhead costs, labor and time. Back in the day I was confused by this statement. I am not any more. Even as a home baker I run into this problem. Many bakers price their goods by what they think people will pay instead of calculating what it costs them to do business.  One of the best things my husband said to me was is that there is a big difference between a business and a hobby. If we are going to make this a business then we have to run it like one.

On July 20, 2011 the Cottage Law was enacted in Arizona. I am pretty sure with in five minutes after the bill passing that I started filling out my licensing paperwork to put everything in motion to start my baking company. The next thing you know the Arizona Republic called and asked if I was willing to be interviewed. Well, of course! Come on over.

baking for charity

The world was now my oyster. I had a tax id number. I had my LLC paperwork filed with state. I passed my food licensing exam. Next up, website development and social media. That sentence right back there contained 5 words.  The amount of hours that went into this development I can not count. Time, sweat, countless hours and tears went into this labor of love. There are many times in the midst of if all I have had to remind myself why I do what I do. It helps keep my perspective focused.

I know many states are waiting for their cottage law to go through. Many of my cake and cookie friends are fighting for their cause and we are rooting for you.   I am truly blessed that we have a cottage law in Arizona.  It allows me to keep my overhead very low so that we can maximize the profits for our charity.

Baking for Charity

Well, I have to get to decorating cookies.  There are orders that need to get out the door. Speaking of cookies. You might be wondering how did I make the jump from brownies and cupcakes to insane decorated cookies. Oh yes, I said it. Insane decorated cookies. There is no other way to describe them.  A long time client who ordered my brownies than I could count called and asked if I would make monogram cookies for an upcoming meeting. My response, oh no, I can’t do those kind of cookies. I can’t even imagine the amount of time they take. She asked if I would just give it a shot for her. How do I say no? She was my best customer. The only decorated sugar cookies I had ever really seen are the yellow happy faces at the grocery store.

I hung up the phone and decided to Google decorated sugar cookies. I was in for quite a surprise.  I stumbled upon this whole world of crazy cookies in all shapes, sizes and piping skills like I had never seen.  Needless to say I was completely intrigued. You think Pinterest is time sucker, when I stumbled upon The Adventures of Sweet Sugarbelle and Sweetopia‘s website I was mesmerized. I clicked back to their very first post and started reading from the beginning like it was a book.

Now that you are caught up to the events of 2011 you will have to come back for round three of our journey. After two years of working with our partners in Africa we would be approved as an NGO, finalize the land deal, and more on business of insane cookies.






15 comments on “Baking for Charity Part II

  1. Gabby says:

    Hi Melissa,
    I had been searching facebook and the web for Home baked good businesses this morning and got so excited when I found your website! I have been wanting to try venturing into a home baked goods business for the past few years, but have never really taken the jump due to not properly understanding the rules and regulations. I just took the food handlers course for my area and got my food handlers card. I am registered under AZDHS Home baked goods program, but I am stumped as to what I should do next. Are there other licenses that I still need to get before beginning?? Thank You so much for your informative blog posts! sooo helpful! Blessings! Gabbby

    1. Gabby – Thank you so much for your question. Getting registered and having your food license are only one part of the equation. It allows you to produce food in your home but if you are going to sell it you have to set up a business. On the Cottage Law website it has a FAQ section, in that section they provide a link for starting a small business. Here is what it says: The Arizona Commerce Authority Small Business Services division has an online “Checklist Program to Start, Operate, and Grow a Business in Arizona” which provides quick answers to commonly asked questions about business licensing, registration, assistance, and resources. Visit AZ Commerce for the step-by-step checklist that will guide you through the basics of starting a small business.

      When you start a small business you have to register the name of your company, file the type of company you are and register with the County and State. Also, you need to look into insurance and the tax code. You will need to pay what is called a TPT tax.

      Good Luck.

  2. Steve Tucker says:

    I have to ask the obvious question. How does a guy who grows up in Chicago end up a Detroit Lions fan? Inconceivable!

  3. This absolutely floors me, Melissa. I have been reading both parts for about twenty minutes. Sometimes I get a little down about humanity, but this really gives me hope. Your family is so special. Xoxo

    1. melissa says:

      Thank you so much Callye. Even though humanity can be a little confusing, God is good. He is faithful. As long as you keep your eyes fixed on Him it helps you get through the day even when people don’t make sense. 🙂

  4. I love reading this, Melissa. Thanks for taking the time to catch us up on your journey.

    You and I have very different stories…..but our hearts are matched in a ton of ways. I can’t wait until that day when we can meet face to face and share a HUGE sister hug. 🙂

    1. melissa says:

      I know. The same but different. I can’t wait to meet face to face either! I could kick myself for not wanting to disturb you at CookieCon! Oh well. When we finally do meet, it will be sweet.

  5. What an inspiring post! I’ve been loving reading your recaps and cannot wait to read part 3. Thanks for sharing!

    1. melissa says:

      Thank you so much Mike!

  6. Kelly says:

    What a great story! So inspiring. I am of the hobby baker variety right now but hope to change to that to a money-making proposition when my daughter is older. I loved reading about your journey. One question: do you really do all your decorating while wearing gloves? I have so much trouble trying to do anything while wearing those 🙂 I love your work and reading your blog.

    1. melissa says:

      Thank you so much! You won my very first giveaway! I do wear gloves most of the time. I hate them as well. Sometimes I wear just one glove on the hand that will touch the food. I found a brand of gloves at Smart and Final that fit really snug which helps.

  7. Another cliff hanger…..can’t wait for the next installment. We are waiting for our cottage food law here in Wisconsin to be expanded to allow for home baked goods. Until then it is just a hobby. GBY–Katy

    1. melissa says:

      Thank you so much for reading Katy! I know some people in Wisconsin who are lobbying hard for the bill to go through. I could get on a soap box and talk for hours about this subject. No one is forcing anyone to buy from a home baker, but if people choose too they should have the freedom to. Have a great day.

  8. crystal says:

    These two post gave me goose bumps! The things that you and your family are doing for Sudan…such a blessing!!! Love reading the recaps!

    1. melissa says:

      Thanks chica! It’s crazy to think how many years it has taken to get here!

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